Silly Mat Kendrick on Twitter, putting this question out into the universe just as I sat down to write about it:
If Eck goes 4-2-3-1, there's potential for Albrighton to play right, Charles N'Zogbia left and Agbonlahor centrally behind Bent. Discuss
This thought both thrills and saddens me. I'm ecstatic that we'll see an Aston Villa lineup that does not include Emile Heskey. He's been shoehorned into the starting XI, playing behind the striker, and we've even seen him pop up on the wings, which has been a special sight. But now he's out 2-3 weeks with a hamstring problem, so Alex McLeish has to think outside the Ivanhoe box.The formation suggested by Mat certainly has potential. Those disappointed with Charles N'Zogbia so far might love his play on the left. The Frenchman is a naturally left-sided player and is having a bit of trouble adjusting to the right -- you can see it when he has to take extra time to get into a position where he can switch the ball to his left foot. When you're a side banking on speed, any delay is going to cost precious seconds, and likely result in squandered chances. Putting Blazing Roaches on the left would help us to see just how good a player he really is.
And, of course, the Villa have a fine player ready to step in on the right -- Marc Albrighton, who we haven't seen much of this season. Marc looked slightly out of sorts at the end of last season, and hasn't looked brilliant in his substitute appearances, save for last time against Everton, where he finally reminded fans what a special player he is.
The problem with N'Zogbia on the left and Albrighton on the right is this: you've got no room for Barry Bannan. Gabby Agbonlahor has been Villa's best player so far this season. He's shaken off last year's injury, he's no longer overshadowed by Ashley Young, and he's determined to shine. So clearly Agbonlahor has to play. And as long as Darren Bent is healthy, obviously he's got to be in the lineup.
So we're left with Bazza as the odd man out. If it weren't for Agbonlahor and N'Zogbia both being left-sided players, I'd say leave out Albrighton, put Bannan in the hole and have those two on the wings. I'm torn: give N'Zogbia his chance on the left, or finally give Bannan a chance to start (because let's be honest -- he's earned it)? Or there's always this option:
Given; Warnock, Collins, Dunne, Hutton; Petrov; N'Zogbia, Bannan, Albrighton; Agbonlahor, Bent
How 'bout it, McLeish? A 4-1-3-2. Solves everything! And if McLeish actually does this, I will eat a Villa kit.